A new report from Amnesty International alleges that Royal Dutch Shell did not, in fact, clean up its oil spills in Nigeria despite company claims that the task was completed.
Shell is the largest oil company to operate in the Niger Delta, with over 5,000 kilometers of pipeline and investments in over 50 oil fields. Shell’s pipelines have been responsible for 1,693 oil spills since 2007, but Amnesty International says the true number is likely much higher. Moreover, the non-profit alleges that Shell’s claims that it has cleaned up the oil spills are “blatantly false.”
Amnesty International also points the finger at the Nigerian government, which has failed to properly police the oil industry in the delta. “The quality of life of people living surrounded by oil fumes, oil encrusted soil and rivers awash with crude oil is appalling, and has been for decades,” said Stevyn Obodoekwe, the Director of Programmes for the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), which partnered with Amnesty International on the report.
The report concludes that four sites in the Niger Delta “remain visibly contaminated,” areas where Shell says cleanup was completed. “This is just a cover up. If you just dig down a few metres you find oil. We just excavated, then shifted the soil away, then covered it all up again,” a contractor hired by Shell told Amnesty International.
A 2011 investigation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) documented the contamination at Shell’s sites, prompting a promise from the Anglo-Dutch oil major to follow through on cleanup.
Shell has sought to reduce its holdings of Nigerian oil assets over the past two years, part of a divestment campaign to cut costs and raise cash. The company has moved to sell off at least four oil fields, plus a major pipeline that plagued the company. The Nembe Creek pipeline was routinely targeted by oil thieves, which Shell says was the reason behind the repetitive occurrence of oil spills.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is struggling from falling revenues as oil prices remain depressed. The Nigerian government is floating the idea of changing contract terms with international oil companies in order to increase its tax take.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com